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Nairobi-based UN chief resigns over travel expenses scandal

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The United Nations Environment chief Erik Solheim has resigned after an official travel audit undertaken by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services indicted him for misusing funds.

In a statement, Solheim said he was resigning with effect from November 22, saying he was doing so in the best interest of UN Environment and the wider UN.

“On Saturday, I received the final report on the audit of official travel undertaken by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services. As I have maintained throughout this process – I have been and remain – committed to doing what I believe to be in the best interest of UN Environment and the mission we are here to achieve. For this reason, after deep reflection and in close consultation with the Secretary-General, I am stepping down as Executive Director of UN Environment with effect from 22 November 2018. Moments ago, with a heavy heart, I informed the Secretary-General of my decision. He indicated that he will be shortly appointing an Officer in Charge of the Organization,” he said.

Solheim said despite the challenges this moment brings, he hopes each of the Unep staff will take pride in what they have achieved together.

“From the historic announcement made by Indian prime minister Modi to phase out single-use plastics, the ever-growing list of countries ratifying the Kigali Amendment, the largest-ever gathering of leaders on pollution at the Third Environment Assembly, our incredible partnerships on nature-based farming in countries like Indonesia and India, and the remarkable signing of an agreement by 12 countries guaranteeing environmental rights in Latin America and the Caribbean – we can be immensely proud of our accomplishments and the momentum for action we have created. We have supported so many other great efforts including the Minamata Convention, the European Union platform on single-plastics and so many innovative partnerships with the private sector,” he said.

“I will remain a committed friend of UN Environment and to all the wonderful individuals and dedicated professionals with whom I have had the privilege to serve,” Solheim added.

The internal audit report accuses him of gobbling up Ksh 51.3 million ($500,000) in unnecessary and budgeted travel expenses in just 22 months.


He is also accused of rule-breaking at the Nairobi-headquartered UN agency. He also unofficially allowed chosen staff to work from Europe rather than at Unep headquarters in Nairobi.

Tanzanian national Joyce Msuya has been appointed as the acting Unep Executive Director.

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BT Reporter
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